Dieselpunk + Steampunk Culture

Today, let's take another look at the artwork of the Diesel Era greatest sci-fi illustrator.

Gernsback's Amazing Stories magazine was successful, but Gernsback lost control of the publisher when it went bankrupt in February 1929. By early June he had launched three new magazines, two of which published science fiction. The June 1929 issue of Science Wonder Stories appeared on newsstands on 5 May 1929, and was followed on 5 June by the July 1929 issue of Air Wonder Stories. Both magazines were monthly, with Gernsback as editor-in-chief and David Lasser as editor.

Frank R. Paul was responsible for the cover art. His concepts appeared on the subscription leaflets of both Science Wonder Stories and Air Wonder Stories:

Frank R. Paul can be credited with the first color painting of a space station published in the U.S.:

His cover for the November 1929 Science Wonder Stories was an early, if not the earliest, depiction of a flying saucer.

This painting appeared almost two decades before the sightings of mysterious flying objects by Kenneth Arnold. He has been described as the first person to make a living drawing spaceships; this is a slight exaggeration, as much of his income was also derived from technical drawing.

These visions of robots, spaceships, and aliens were presented to an America wherein most people did not even own a telephone. Indeed, they were the first science fiction images seen by Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Forrest J Ackerman and others who would go on to great prominence in the field.

In 1930, Gernsback decided to merge Science Wonder Stories and Air Wonder Stories into Wonder Stories. In an editorial just before Science Wonder Stories changed its name, Gernsback commented that the word "Science" in the title "has tended to retard the progress of the magazine, because many people had the impression that it is a sort of scientific periodical rather than a fiction magazine".

Ironically, the inclusion of "science" in the title was the reason that science fiction writer Isaac Asimov began reading the magazine; when he saw the August 1929 issue he obtained permission to read it from his father on the grounds that it was clearly educational.

14 years later Frank R. Paul illustrated a sci-fi story written by Asimov. But it's another ... er, story, that I'd better save for the next week. Right now, ladies and gentlemen, you can browse our Wonder Stories album (89 hi-res images, most of them in color, courtesy of Golden Age Comic Books Stories) and/or enjoy the slideshow:

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Comment by lord_k on December 29, 2010 at 2:17am
I've got a number of Science and Invention covers (scans, of course) done by Paul. Electrical Experimenter is absolutely amazing, but hi-res scans are scarce. Last week I uploaded two EE covers (see Amazing Stories album)
Comment by Caerulctor on December 28, 2010 at 8:07pm
Paul was doing interior art for Gernsback's magazines -- notably his half factual, half fictional Science and Invention prior to becoming the primary cover artist for Amazing Stories when it debuted in 1926.  But the covers for Science and Invention were mostly done by another artist, Howard V. Brown, who had a quite different  (but no less remarkable) style -- few other artists in the early 1920s were producing such vivid visions of the future.  I heartily recommend viewing the covers of Science and Invention and its predecessor, The Electrical Experimenter, from about 1915 on.  They're truly amazing -- and full of unexplored ideas for retro-futuristic gadgets.
Comment by lord_k on December 28, 2010 at 1:59pm

To Larry:

there's more to come.


To Tome:

you mean Paul, I presume.

Comment by Tome Wilson on December 28, 2010 at 1:50pm

It was educational because it had the word "science" in the title.  That's priceless.

Thank you so much for these, Lord K. Gernsback's work has a technical quality to it that, despite the bizarre color palette, really gives a sense of realism to his machines. I wonder how much time he spent thinking of the mechanics of a piece before he actually set pencil to paper.

Comment by Larry on December 28, 2010 at 1:34pm
More of the wonderful retro-future. Gotta love it!

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